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The Relationship Between Delegation and Incentives Across Occupations: Evidence and Theory

  • DeVaro, Jed
  • Prasad, Suraj

A large literature, both theoretical and empirical, suggests that delegation of authority and incentives should have a positive relationship. Using data from a large cross section of British establishments, we show that the positive relationship between incentives and delegation that has been consistently documented in the empirical literature masks a stark difference between job types. We classify jobs into two categories: complex jobs include professional, technical and scientific occupations and simple jobs consist of all other occupations with a lower-level code in the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) system. We find that for simple jobs, the relationship between delegation and incentives is positive as has been found in the previous literature, whereas for complex jobs it is negative. To explain this negative relationship for complex jobs, we develop a model where tasks have a risk-return tradeoff and where a single performance measure has to induce both task selection and effort. We find that if tasks vary sufficiently by risk and return and if effort is noisy to measure, then delegation and incentives have a negative relationship.

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Paper provided by University of Sydney, School of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 2013-05.

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Date of creation: Mar 2013
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Handle: RePEc:syd:wpaper:2123/9015
Contact details of provider: Postal: Sydney, NSW 2006
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  1. Aghion, Philippe & Tirole, Jean, 1997. "Formal and Real Authority in Organizations," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 105(1), pages 1-29, February.
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  8. Dilip Mookherjee, 2005. "Decentralization, Hierarchies and Incentives: A Mechanism Design Perspective," Boston University - Department of Economics - Working Papers Series WP2005-034, Boston University - Department of Economics, revised Sep 2005.
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  12. Jed Devaro & Fidan Ana Kurtulus, 2011. "An Empirical Analysis of Risk, Incentives and The Delegation of Worker Authority," UMASS Amherst Economics Working Papers 2011-13, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Department of Economics.
  13. Susan Athey & John Roberts, 2001. "Organizational Design: Decision Rights and Incentive Contracts," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(2), pages 200-205, May.
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  15. Alonso, Ricardo & Matouschek, Niko, 2005. "Optimal Delegation," CEPR Discussion Papers 5289, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  16. Gustavo Manso, 2011. "Motivating Innovation," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 66(5), pages 1823-1860, October.
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  18. Thomas Hellmann & Veikko Thiele, 2011. "Incentives and Innovation: A Multitasking Approach," American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 3(1), pages 78-128, February.
  19. OWAN Hideo & NAGAOKA Sadao, 2011. "Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivations of Inventors," Discussion papers 11022, Research Institute of Economy, Trade and Industry (RIETI).
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